Zhang Xuecheng

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zhang.
Zhang Xuecheng

Zhang Xuecheng (Chinese: 章学诚; Wade–Giles: Chang Hsüeh-ch'eng; 1738–1801) was a Qing Dynasty historian, writer and philosopher. His father and his grandfather had been government officials, but, although Zhang achieved the highest civil service examination degree in 1778, he never held high office. Zhang's ideas about the historical process were revolutionary in many ways and he became one of the most enlightened historical theorists of the Qing dynasty, but he spent much of his life in near poverty without the support of a patron and, in 1801, he died, poor and with few friends. It was not until the late 19th century that Chinese scholars began to accept the validity of Zhang's ideas.[1]

His biographer, David Nivison comments that while his countrymen did not think him a great literary artist, "the infrequent western reader will find his style often both moving and powerful." Zhang developed, Nivison continues, "an organic view of history and the state that approaches Hegelian thought, and then built this view upon and into a theory of culture that sometimes suggests Vico," the Italian philosopher.[2]

His magnum opus, On Literature and History (《文史通义》), was published posthumously, in 1832. In Zhang's view, Confucianism developed over time in response to the concrete needs of the people for social organization. This developmental view contrasts with the view of the Neo-Confucians that Confucianism is the expression of timeless "principles" or "patterns" that are inherent in the human heart. Zhang's most famous quotation is that "the six classics are all history" 六经皆史. This means that the canonical texts of Confucianism are not to be understood as repositories of timeless wisdom, but as records of the actions and words of the sages in response to specific historical contexts.[3]


  1. Hiromu Mimose, "Chang Hsueh-ch'eng"
  2. Nivison, Chang Hsueh-ch'eng p. 1
  3. Hiromu Mimose, "Chang Hsueh-ch'eng"

Further reading

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